I have a thing for fish sandwiches. It all started when I was a scrawny, unfortunate-looking kid. I was a picky eater with a capital “P”. When my parents would take us to McDonalds, I was forced to find something to eat. McDonalds didn’t introduce the chicken nugget until 1983 so I had the options of hamburgers or a filet o’ fish. I didn’t like hamburgers and would never consider eating one on a BUN with CONDIMENTS. Eeeeew…gag me with a spoon. So I went with the fish sandwich. I could live with the bun, but not the cheese or tarter sauce. My dad absolutely hated going to McDonalds with me and having to order that fish sandwich plain because it meant we got the orange road cone placed atop our car and we had to pull over into a parking spot to wait on the special order. Many times they made it wrong and it would be presented to us with either cheese or tarter sauce which made me wonder why people can’t understand what the word “plain” means.
Now that I’m all grown up, I’m not that picky of an eater but I still like my fish sandwiches unadulterated. I want to taste the FISH! Before I moved to Kentucky, my blogging partners and I did an extensive study during Lent on the best fish sandwich available in Charleston, WV. We aptly named the series: Top Fish. The winner was a glorious sandwich from the Fresh Seafood Company made of two breaded whitefish fillets and a buttery, flaky croissant. It’s still one of the best to ever cross my lips.
Here in Louisville, I haven’t been presented with many opportunities to partake of fish sandwiches. I’ve been to the Fishery many times and recently gave the Fish House a try. So, let’s have a local fish sandwich Throwdown!
I will be judging based on several key components of fish sandwich enjoyment: 1) restaurant environment, 2) service, 3) breading, 4) bread, 5) the fish itself, 6) accompaniments, and 7) price.
1) Restaurant environment. I’ve been to the Fishery locations in St. Mathews and Middletown. Both are clean and top the Fish House in that department. I’m sure it’s tough to keep up with all that fry grease and maintain a spotless eating area but The Fishery does a good job of it. Both have some outdoor seating but the Fish House has a nicer patio. Taking all things into consideration, the cleanliness factor gives The Fishery a leg up in this category.
2) Service. Both establishments have similar SOPs: you order and pay at the counter, someone calls your name when it’s ready, and there are condiments and paper products available in the dining area. That suits me just fine. I don’t need to be waited on like the Queen of Sheba to enjoy my fish sandwich. We asked a lot of questions at the Fish House like “do you bread the onion rings in house?” “are the fries fresh cut”, and “what’s the difference between scrod and haddock?” The gentleman at the counter (who I’m betting was the owner) was super friendly. He answered all our questions and gave us additional information without rushing us. We’ve always received polite, efficient service at The Fishery as well. Due to the excellent service offered to us at the counter, The Fish House wins this point.
3) Breading. Now here’s where things start to get serious. Good breading is essential to a good fish sandwich. Unless, of course, you’re eating a grilled fish sandwich. I like a golden brown, crispy breading that does not overpower the taste of the fish. I am not a fan of spices in the breading – just give me some good ol’ American S & P. The breading on The Fishery fish is fantastic. It completely coats the fish with a golden brown breading that is thick enough to impart a nice crunch but not too much to overpower the thick, flaky cod. It adheres well to the fish fillet and is nicely and simply seasoned.
The breading at The Fish House left much to be desired.
My husband and I ordered two different types of fish but I think the cornmeal breading was intended to be the same even though they turned out differently. That sounded confusing. My husband’s breading was on the light side and had a nice golden brown color. I think mine was way overcooked and resulted in a much drier, darker end result. Also, I felt the Fish House breading was underseasoned. The Fishery definitely wins for best breading.
4) The bread. I just don’t get why you Louisvillians want to eat your fish on two slices of el cheapo sandwich bread. And I ask this question before going into the specifics of each restaurant because they both use sandwich bread as the standard. First, the sandwich bread is way too thin which completely throws off the bread to fish ratio. If I were a condiment person, I probably wouldn’t even be able to detect that I was eating any bread. Secondly, there’s not near enough of the crusty part on sandwich bread slices unless you happen to luck out and get a heal. Third, it just seems cheap to me, like they can’t afford real buns. Fourth, the bread isn’t toasted, buttered, grilled, heated or nothing! They just pull a couple slices out of the bag and slap the fish on it. If you don’t want sandwich bread (like me) both places also offer some sort of bun. Just like the bread, however, the buns are not prepped in any way. It’s just the cold, plain bun out of the bag. In my opinion, bread like that adds absolutely no value and may, in fact, be a detraction. I just eat my fish sandwich without bread at these places. This one is a tie – they both suck in the bread department.
5) The fish itself. Like I explained previously, my husband and I ordered different types of fish at the Fish House so we could try both. The cod (which was listed as scrod on the menu board) was flaky and tasty. The fillet was not as thick as what I expected. The haddock was dry, possibly due to overcooking. The Fishery cod filet is always thick, hot, and super flaky. There’s no contest on this factor – the Fishery wins hands down.
6) Accompaniments. The Fish House offers fries, cole slaw, onion rings, hush puppies, and other stuff. I chose fries and my husband chose the rings. We both ordered our own hush puppies because we really like them and we aren’t willing to share with each other. We were very excited about the rings because they make them in-house with their own breading. Sadly, they turned out to be weird. The onion slices were dry and lifeless. The breading was underseasoned and seemed very similar to what was on the fish. Maybe it’s just that it tasted like fish breading because it was all fried in the same grease? No matter, we didn’t like them. The fries are standard frozen straight-cut fries and were well-executed. Hubby liked their hushpuppies better than I did. I felt they were (are you seeing a trend?) a bit underseasoned. I know I said I don’t like condiments on my fish, but I do like condiments on my fries. My husband REQUIRES LOTS of ketchup for the fries, the onion rings and the fish sandwich. We were mortified that the Fish House does not serve Heinz ketchup. I am going to really hold back at this juncture and not delve into a tyrade about how Heinz ketchup is the ONLY ketchup. Maybe another day.
The Fishery offers similar sides. We always get fries and hush puppies. (Mental note: try the onion rings next time.) The fries here are frozen as well and they are served hot, crispy, and golden. The hushpuppies, in my opinion, are better at The Fishery. They are more flavorful, a bit less dough-y, and slightly less dense. I like to slather butter on my pups. Yum! The Fishery serves Heinz ketchup. The point goes to The Fishery, but that ketchup situation would have taken the Fish House down regardless of the quality of the onion rings.
7. Price. Comparing the two eateries, prices are similar. The Fishery offers a fish sandwich combo (sandwich plus two sides) for $8.25. A generous order of hushpuppies is an additional $2.25. The Fish House offers a combo (sandwich and two sides) for $7.95 and hushpuppies are a quarter each. I feel like you are getting much better quality for the money at The Fishery. For that reason, The Fishery edges past the Fish House in this category.
Let’s tally the results:
|Category||The Fishery||The Fish House
|The Fish Itself||Win||Lose|
|Total||Winner, in a Landslide!|
The Fishery – Middletown
11519 Shelbyville Rd. Ste. A.
Louisville, KY 40243
The Fish House
1310 Winter Avenue
Louisville, KY 40204